After CNA Training: When Your Employer Won’t Let You Call in Sick

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We’ve all been there. You wake up one morning after CNA training to prepare to go in for work and you just feel sick. Your stomach hurts or maybe your throat. You don’t know what’s wrong, but you can’t imagine caring for eight to ten residents in this condition, and you sure don’t want to pass the bug onto them.





So, you call in to your employer and let them know you are running a fever and can’t come in. Instead of telling you to get back in bed, however, your director of nursing (DON) insists you come into work anyway so she can evaluate your symptoms and determine herself whether you are fit for the workplace.


This doesn’t seem right, does it? Unfortunately, it has become a common occurrence for many after CNA training. In this article we will explain why it happens, if it is even legal, and what you can do about it.


Getting Sick After CNA Training


What happens when one CNA comes to work sick after CNA training? Yes, that’s right; the sickness spreads like wildfire. It goes from one CNA to the next, stopping at residents as well, whose immune systems can’t really take it.


So, why is it allowed to occur? Most of the time, when a DON demands that a CNA must come into work sick, it is because of a shortage of staffing. If there aren’t enough employees to work, having one individual who has completed CNA training out can be devastating to resident care. So, the DON insists the CNA come in, even though she is sick and possibly contagious. From there it is a downward spiral. One CNA after another tries to call in, and the DON reacts negatively to what she believes to be an abuse of the facility’s attendance policy.


While this is not exactly the best situation for any medical facility to be in, what exactly can you do about it? Let’s take a look at the legalities behind this practice.


  • If your DON is a nurse practitioner or a doctor, she can legal diagnose and treat illnesses. However, if she is only a nurse, those duties fall outside her scope of practice. This means she can not legally evaluate and diagnose your stomach ache and hand you some Imodium and two Tylenol for your diarrhea and fever unless a doctor has ordered it. Most DON’s who are nurses and use this practice can get away with it because you aren’t aware of those legalities after CNA training. You don’t realize they are doing something wrong.


  • If your DON is a nurse practitioner or a doctor, the facility’s policy’s should state whether or not she can have you come into work to be evaluated for sickness after CNA training. If policies do state this, and most practices are discouraged to do so, all employees must be subject to it. This means everyone, from those who have completed CNA training to the maintenance man.


  • If it is policy, your DON can ask you to see a doctor if you are sick after CNA training and receive a note from the doctor regarding your illness before allowing you to take the day off.


What to Do About Calling in Sick After CNA Training


If you wake up to find you are too sick to go into work after CNA training, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the chance of harassment from your director of nursing.


  • Take steps to reduce your symptoms after CNA training. If you have diarrhea, take Imodium; if you have a sore throat, buy some cough drops. Take Tylenol to knock your fever down.


  • Make sure you know your facility’s policy after CNA training. Most require you to notify them two to four hours before you shift begins so they have plenty of time to find another employee who has completed CNA training. Some will even require you to find your replacement before they will allow you to take it off.


  • Have your spouse or friend call in sick for you. Instruct them to be firm and let your DON know you are sick and will not be coming into work. Have them give details of your illness and inform your DON when you are going to be visiting the doctor.


Most of the time, staffing issues result in DONs refusing to let sick CNAs stay home. If you are ill after you have completed CNA training, make sure you take steps to care for your own health, as well as the health of your co-workers and residents. Call in sick if you really need to after CNA training.

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